The Empire of Mali was a vast and powerful African Muslim empire that dominated much of medieval West Africa. It was regarded as one of the most important states of Islam and its cities, such as Timbuktu, were famous for their sophistication and strong cultures of learning.

Emperor Musa I of Mali was a devout Muslim, who believed it was his duty to perform his hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Musa made his pilgrimage between 1325-1326. His procession included 60,000 people. Most of these came with him to carry vast quantities of gold to give away charitably en route.

Musa gave it to the poor he met along his route as well as to the cities that housed him on his journey. It was reported that he left enough gold to build a mosque wherever he stopped each and every Friday. But Musa’s generosity had unexpected effects.

There was now so much gold in north Africa that the precious metal suddenly lost almost all its value. Price inflation destabilised the economy disastrously so that Musa had to try to buy back all the gold in Cairo to stabilise things.

But it was too late: his piety and generosity resulted in a recession which lasted more than a decade, with its effects felt in Europe and the Middle East.